Which Credit Card Should You Use At Hotels?

Which Credit Card Should You Use At Hotels?

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I’m often asked by readers which credit card they should be using to maximize points for a given hotel stay, or if there’s an overall best hotel credit card.

Typically recommending which credit card is best for a particular bonus category (like dining, grocery stores, gas stations, everyday spending, etc.) is easy. That’s not really the case when recommending which credit card to use at hotels, though.

The added wrinkle with making this recommendation for stays at chain hotels is that you don’t just have to consider which credit cards broadly offer the best bonus categories for travel, but you also have to consider whether the hotel brand you’re staying at has a co-branded credit card that offers bonus points for stays at that specific brand.

In this post, I wanted to look at the most rewarding credit cards for hotel spending in general (regardless of the brand you’re staying at), and then compare that to the bonuses offered by specific co-branded hotel credit cards.

The Most Rewarding Credit Cards For Hotel Spending

For this section, I’m excluding co-branded hotel credit cards. That’s because I’m looking at the cards that offer the best bonuses on hotel spending in general, rather than the best bonuses for a particular brand of hotel.

So, which major credit cards offer bonuses for hotel spending?

1. Chase Sapphire Reserve® 

Reward for hotel spending: 5.1% (3x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $550

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve, apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

2. Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Reward for hotel spending: 5.1% (3x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $95
Things to be aware of: This is a business card, and the 3x points is limited to the first $150,000 in combined purchases in bonus categories each account anniversary year

Learn more about the Ink Business Preferred, apply for the Ink Business Preferred.

3. American Express® Green Card

Reward for hotel spending: 5.1% (3x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $150 (Rates & Fees)

Learn more about the Amex Green, apply for the Amex Green.

4. Citi Premier® Card

Reward for hotel spending: 5.1% (3x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $95

Learn more about the Citi Premier, apply for the Citi Premier.

5. Citi Prestige® Card

Reward for hotel spending: 5.1% (3x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $495

Learn more about the Citi Prestige.

6. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Reward for hotel spending: 3.4% (2x points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $95

Learn more about the Sapphire Preferred, apply for the Sapphire Preferred.

Several credit cards offer 3x points on hotel spending

The Most Rewarding Co-Branded Hotel Credit Cards

As you can see above, there are five cards with the same return (by my valuation). All offer 3x transferable points, and all are points that I value at 1.7 cents each.

That means you’re looking at a return of ~5.1% regardless of which card you use. Do you get a better or worse return when using a co-branded hotel credit card?

To be comprehensive, let’s look at the co-branded credit cards issued by Hilton Honors, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy, Radisson Rewards, World of Hyatt, and Wyndham Rewards. First let me share how much I value a point in each of these currencies:

  • Hilton Honors — 0.5 cents each
  • IHG Rewards Club — 0.5 cents each
  • Marriott Bonvoy — 0.7 cents each
  • Radisson Rewards — 0.3 cents each
  • World of Hyatt — 1.5 cents each
  • Wyndham Rewards — 0.7 cents each

To keep things fairly simple, let’s look at the co-branded credit card from each of the hotel groups that offers the highest return on hotel spending (keep in mind the main reason to get hotel credit cards could be for the elite status and free night certificates that they offer):

Hilton Honors

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (review) offers 14x points on Hilton spending, which I value at a return of 7%. This is excellent, and beats the return on spending offered by some transferable points cards.

I use the Hilton Aspire Card for my Hilton hotel spending

IHG Rewards Club

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (review) offers 10x points on IHG hotel spending, which I value at a return of 5%. This isn’t quite as good as the return on spending offered by some transferable points cards, though others may feel differently based on their valuation of points.

Marriott Bonvoy

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card from Chase (review) and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (review) offer 6x points on Marriott hotel spending, which I value at a return of 4.2%. This isn’t as good as the return on spending offered by some transferable points cards.

Earn bonus points on Marriott spending with the Boundless Card

Radisson Rewards

The Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature® Card offers 10x points on Radisson spending, which I value at a return of 3%. This isn’t as good as the return on spending offered by some transferable points cards.

World of Hyatt

The World of Hyatt Credit Card (review) offers 4x points on Hyatt hotel spending, which I value at a return of 6%. This is excellent, and beats the return on spending offered by some transferable points cards.

I use the World of Hyatt Card for my Hyatt hotel spending

Wyndham Rewards

The Wyndham Earner Business Card (review) offers 8x points on Wyndham hotel spending, which I value at a return of 5.6%. This is very good, and beats the return on hotel spending offered by transferable points card.

Crunching The Numbers

Everyone will value points differently, and those with different points valuations may also come up with different conclusions.

Personally, I think the Chase Sapphire Reserve®Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, American Express® Green CardCiti Premier® Card, and Citi Prestige® Card, offer the best general return on hotel spending, at 5.1%.

What’s surprising is that co-branded hotel credit cards largely don’t offer a better return for stays at their “own” hotels than these cards do for travel purchases.

Based on my valuation of hotel points:

Earn 14x points on Hilton stays with the Hilton Aspire Card

Other Considerations With Hotel Spending

There are other potential considerations when deciding which hotel credit card to use:

It could be worth earning a Hilton free night reward

Bottom Line

In many cases, you’re actually not best off using a co-branded hotel card for your hotel spending, counterintuitive as it might be. Hilton and Hyatt have especially good co-branded hotel credit cards, where it can be worth spending money on their cards at hotels.

Otherwise, you’re generally best off using a transferable points card for your hotel spending.

What’s your go-to card for hotel spending? Do you find it more worthwhile to use the hotel’s co-brand card, or do you use a card earning transferable points?

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: American Express® Green Card (Rates & Fees).

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  1. Jan

    I think I’ll get use of CSR’s x10 when booking on their travel portal.

  2. Anthony

    I am looking at a boutique hotel stay for this weekend. Best way to book seems to be Amex Hotel Collection / Amex Platinum:
    1) 5x earnings
    2) 1 free night on a three day booking
    3) $400 in credits
    4) Hotel collection benefits (room upgrade, property credit, etc)

    I would argue that with 5x earning + $50 credit (CSP), 5x earning + $200 credit (Amex Plat), and 10x earning (CSR) that people should seriously consider switching some stays to those portals.

  3. David Ourisman

    I'm aware that I'm in the minority here. I've largely given up on "points" and have instead chosen the Bank of American Premium Rewards "cash back" card. By moving my IRA to Merrill Lynch, this qualifies me for the top tier with a 75% bonus on the 2% rewards on travel, dining, and groceries, yielding 3.5% cash back ... and a 75% bonus on the 1.5% rewards (a NET 2.625%) for everything else.

    And, off...

    I'm aware that I'm in the minority here. I've largely given up on "points" and have instead chosen the Bank of American Premium Rewards "cash back" card. By moving my IRA to Merrill Lynch, this qualifies me for the top tier with a 75% bonus on the 2% rewards on travel, dining, and groceries, yielding 3.5% cash back ... and a 75% bonus on the 1.5% rewards (a NET 2.625%) for everything else.

    And, off topic, I use an Amazon Visa card exclusively for Whole Foods and Amazon.com, giving me 5% cash back.

  4. Margie Power

    After acquiring points, use them to pay for a hotel stay and you won't be charged the hotel tax surcharges, which can exceed 10% if paid in cash. Even a Cash + Points purchase is exempt from the tax, because the cash buys points and then it's an all-points purchase. I've found points really valuable this season! Hotels are raising rates a lot when they can, but the category typically stays constant.

  5. Ben F

    For some, the Citi Custom Cash could be a valuable card for up to $500 of hotel spend, if this will be the lead spending category for the month -- earning 5x Citi TY points. While there is a relatively limited ceiling to the impact here, it can be a valuable bump for the TY points balance nonetheless.

  6. D3kingg

    Just started off with Amex Hilton Honors card . Hoping to make a triple play and get bonuses on AMEX Hilton’s 3 cards including Aspire and Surpass. I already met the $1000 minimum spend on the basic card . Will pay it off and wait about 2-3 months to apply for the next card etc. My credit is just borderline excellent. Is that a good strategy ?

    1. WrightHI

      With a little patience, you can get upgrade offers to Surpass and then Aspire that may match the signup bonuses and will save you a couple of application slots.

Featured Comments Load all 7 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Jan

I think I’ll get use of CSR’s x10 when booking on their travel portal.

Anthony

I am looking at a boutique hotel stay for this weekend. Best way to book seems to be Amex Hotel Collection / Amex Platinum: 1) 5x earnings 2) 1 free night on a three day booking 3) $400 in credits 4) Hotel collection benefits (room upgrade, property credit, etc) I would argue that with 5x earning + $50 credit (CSP), 5x earning + $200 credit (Amex Plat), and 10x earning (CSR) that people should seriously consider switching some stays to those portals.

David Ourisman

I'm aware that I'm in the minority here. I've largely given up on "points" and have instead chosen the Bank of American Premium Rewards "cash back" card. By moving my IRA to Merrill Lynch, this qualifies me for the top tier with a 75% bonus on the 2% rewards on travel, dining, and groceries, yielding 3.5% cash back ... and a 75% bonus on the 1.5% rewards (a NET 2.625%) for everything else. And, off topic, I use an Amazon Visa card exclusively for Whole Foods and Amazon.com, giving me 5% cash back.

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